With the tens of thousands of airplane models that have been built and flown since the days of the Brothers Wright, how is it even possible to come up with a list of the greatest planes of them all?
It’s a fair question, and it’s one we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing before we even embarked upon the journey. At first glance, the exercise seems a bit silly. After all, planes come in so many different shapes and sizes, with an equal number of mission types to match. How could you possibly choose just one?
But the more we thought about it, the more sense it made to us. To start with, we needed to acknowledge that there are a lot of great airplanes. There are also a lot of historically significant airplanes, which is a more exclusive club, we decided. But finally, there is a level of greatness that you can indeed measure using a few distinct and, in most cases, at least somewhat quantifiable categories, such as how many were built or what its top speed is or how long it was in service.
But looking at the different kinds of mission types, i.e., training, personal transportation, commercial transportation, fighters, bombers, reconnaissance and more, we decided to narrow things down even more by asking ourselves if there were a top dog among those planes.
Surprisingly, the answer to that question was often an unequivocal, “Yes!” That surprised us to no end, but the more we reflected upon it, the more we knew it was true.
So without further ado, we proudly present our list of the Top 25 Planes of All Time. Enjoy!
When Cessna came out with its Citation Model 500 jet in the early 1970s, it was a revelation. Compared to the Learjets of the day, it was slow, but it was easy enough to fly that experienced but otherwise average pilots could safely fly it. And as a turbofan-powered plane, it was relatively cheap to operate compared to the competition, and it soon became a hit among businesses looking for something a lot faster than their King Air but cheaper to operate than Lears and Falcons. Between the Citation I and II models, Cessna built more than 2,000 Citations, some of which were flyable by a single pilot (as opposed to a crew of two). But Cessna wasn’t done with the entry-level jet. In the early ’90s it came out with the CitationJet, a smaller, faster and single-pilot certificated from the get-go light jet. Cessna expanded the plane into a half-dozen spinoff models, all of them faster and roomier than the previous one, giving pilots a range of fast and capable private jets that deliver on their promise of an unprecedented combination of value and flyability.
Photo courtesy of Cessna Aircraft